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|The ninth hole at Minthis Hills Golf Club has the new clubhouse rising up in the distance. (Clive Agran/WorldGolf.com)|
TSADA, Cyprus - In my experience, a change of name is rarely a good sign. It suggests an unhappy past and a desperate attempt to establish a new beginning. However, the changes being made to Minthis Hills Golf Club, formerly known as Tsada Golf Club, are so radical and profound that what finally emerges will be dramatically different, and so a new name is perfectly understandable.
For a start, a whole new entrance to what will be a huge golf resort has been created. Now a rather uneven and dusty track, it will soon provide a most impressive approach. For the moment, however, it's a bit of a bone-shaker. At the end there will be a formidable clubhouse with every conceivable facility. It's already a good way there, and the promise of jam tomorrow has kept the members, who are making do for the moment with a less salubrious temporary building, reasonably content.
Occupying a wonderfully elevated position not far short of 2,000 feet above sea level, the enormous 2,000-square-meter clubhouse - when it opens later this year - will offer fabulous views across the surrounding hills, down to the distant bright blue water of the Mediterranean and over the town of Paphos, which is roughly 20 minutes away.
And it's not just the clubhouse that enjoys an elevated spot; the new driving range is similarly perched on the brow of a hill. Even a topped shot will travel a fair distance, and the "hang time" on a well struck ball will seem like an age.
Major renovation work began on the golf course itself in 2006. Tom Mackenzie, a former colleague of Donald Steel's, is the man charged with the considerable task of improving the layout. He explained that the course - originally built in 1994 and the oldest on the island - required nothing short of wholesale refurbishment.
"Everything needed a great deal of work," Mackenzie said. "The greens, tees and fairways were in serious trouble."
The area around all the greens was reshaped and re-grassed. Two new greens and two new practice greens were rebuilt. Significant work was carried out on the third, sixth, 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th fairways.
Perhaps the most dramatic change was the extension of the 14th into a truly thrilling par 4. It's a lot shorter than it looks from the wonderfully elevated tee, but with oblivion off to the left and serious trouble on the right, a decent tee shot should set up a routine par.
Every tee and bunker was rebuilt. The irrigation system was completely renewed, and drainage and water harvesting were improved so that more water can now be safely collected and drained to the reservoir without being wasted or damaging the course.
Water run-off was evidently a major problem and was fast eroding areas on the course. Part of the solution has been the creation of a network of concrete drains that channel the water away. Because they are effective and save precious water, they can be forgiven for being both unattractive and a nuisance. Apart from extraordinary bounces and ricochets, they can collect a ball and roll it a considerable distance downhill. Perhaps a local rule should be introduced that would allow such a ball to be replaced within one club's length of the point of entry.
Unsightly drains apart, the golf course, which re-opened June 1, 2007, is terrific with a great variety of holes, superb views and enough problems to challenge even the most accomplished of players.
A little under 6,500 yards, it's also about the right length. Buggies are popular but certainly not essential. There are a couple of quite lengthy strolls to the next tee, but the overall layout makes walking a distinctly viable option.
Because of its height above sea level, Minthis Hills Golf Club is particularly popular during the warm and very warm months when it's noticeably cooler and often breezier than it is lower down.
Work has begun on constructing a significant number of top-quality properties in the vicinity of the course. These, however, have been carefully sited to minimize their visual impact, and it does indeed look as if they will be well away from the firing line.
Minthis comes from Stavros tis Minthis, the name of the 12th century monastery that stood near the site. The Church still owns the land where the golf course has been built.
March 25, 2009
Although in his 60s, with a handicap of 15 and lifetime earnings comfortably below $100, Clive Agran nevertheless still believes he can win a major. Arguably England's most gifted golf writer, when not dreaming of glory he's scouring the globe simultaneously searching for lost balls and great golf courses.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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